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Domain Name Administrator Is Not a Domain Name Registry for Jurisdictional Purposes

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has now held that in order to qualify as a domain name authority for purposes of in rem jurisdiction under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), an entity must perform the functions of assigning and registering domain names.  Vizer v. Vizernews.com, Case No. 1:11-cv-00864 (DDC, June 22, 2012) (Howell, J.).

Plaintiff Marius Vizer brought suit against defendant in federal court in the District of Columbia, asserting in rem jurisdiction under the ACPA based on the existence of an ICANN location in the district.  Under § 1125 (d)(2)(A) of ACPA a trademark owner can file an in remsuit against a domain name “in the judicial district in which the domain name registrar, domain name registry or other authority that registrant or assigned the domain name is located.”  (Emphasis supplied.)

Although Vizernews.com made no appearance, in the case, the district court, sua sponte, raised the jurisdictional question as to whether ICANN, which maintains an office in Washington, D.C., qualifies as a “domain name authority,” in response to Vizer’s motion for a default judgment.  In concluding that the court lacked jurisdiction in rem, Judge Howell noted that ICANN does not sell or register domain names, it only administers the process.  The case was dismissed.

© 2021 McDermott Will & EmeryNational Law Review, Volume II, Number 219
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About this Author

Paul Devinsky, Intellectual Property Attorney
Partner

Paul Devinsky is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Washington, D.C., office.  He focuses his practice on patent, trademark and copyright litigation and counseling, as well as on trade secret litigation and counseling, and on licensing and transactional matters and post-issuance PTO proceedings such as reissues, reexaminations and interferences.

202-756-8369
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